Part 3 out of 9
of the publication of my 'English Poets,' because I did not know
myself when the publication was to take place, and I hope you will
forgive the innocent crime and accept the first number going to you
with this note. I warn you that there will be two numbers more at
_least_. Therefore do not prepare yourself for perhaps the impossible
magnanimity of reading them through.
And now I am fit for rivalship with your clocks, papa having given me
an Aeolian harp for the purpose. Do you know the music of an Aeolian
harp, and that nothing below the spherical harmonies is so sweet
and soft and mournfully wild? The amusing part of it is (after the
poetical) that Flushie is jealous and thinks it is alive, and takes
it as very hard that I should say 'beautiful' to anything except his
Arabel talks of going to see you; but if you are sensible to this
intense and most overcoming heat, you will pardon her staying away for
We have heard to-day that Annie proposes to publish her Miscellany by
subscription; and although I know it to be the only way, compatible
with publication at all, to avoid a pecuniary loss, yet the custom
is so entirely abandoned except in the case of persons of a lower
condition of life than _your daughter_, that I am sorry to think of
the observations it may excite. The whole scheme has appeared to me
from the beginning _most foolish_, and if you knew what I know of
the state and fortune of our ephemeral literature, you would use
what influence you have with her to induce her to condemn her
'contributions' to the adorning of a private annual rather than the
purpose in unhappy question. I wish I dared to appeal through my true
love for her to her own good sense once more.
My very dear friend's affectionate and grateful
If you _do_ read any of the papers, let me know, I beseech you, your
full and free opinion of them.
_To H.S. Boyd_
June 22, 1842.
My very dear Friend,--I thank you gratefully for your two notes, with
their united kindness and candour--the latter still rarer than the
former, if less 'sweet upon the tongue.' Sir William Alexander's
tragedy _(that_ is the right name, I think, Sir William Alexander,
Earl of Stirling) you will not find mentioned among my dramatic
notices, because I was much pressed for room, and had to treat the
whole subject as briefly as possible, striking off, like the Roman,
only the heads of the flowers, and I did not, besides, receive your
injunction until my third paper on the dramatists was finished and in
the press. When you read it you will find some notice of that tragedy
by Marlowe, the first knowledge of which I owe to you, my dear Mr.
Boyd, as how much besides? And then comes the fourth paper, and I
tremble to anticipate the possible--nay, the very probable--scolding I
may have from you, upon my various heresies as to Dryden and Pope and
Queen Anne's versificators. In the meantime you have breathing time,
for Mr. Dilke, although very gracious and courteous to my offence of
extending the two papers he asked for _into four_, yet could find
no room in the 'Athenaeum' last week for me, and only _hopes_ for it
this week. And after this week comes the British Association business,
which always fills every column for a month, so that a further delay
is possible enough. 'It will increase,' says Mr. Dilke, 'the zest of
the reader,' whereas _I_ say (at least think) that it will help him
quite to forget me. I explain all this lest you should blame me for
neglect to yourself in not sending the papers. I am so pleased that
you like at least the second article. That is encouragement to me.
Flushie did not seem to think the harp alive when it was taken out of
the window and laid close to him. He examined it particularly, and
is a philosophical dog. But I am sure that at first and while it was
playing he thought so.
In the same way he can't bear me to look into a glass, because he
thinks there is a little brown dog inside every looking glass, and he
is jealous of its being so close to _me_. He used to tremble and bark
at it, but now he is _silently_ jealous, and contents himself with
squeezing close, close to me and kissing me expressively.
My very dear friend's ever gratefully affectionate
[Footnote 65: Ultimately five.]
_To John Kenyon_
50 Wimpole Street: Sunday night [September 1842].
My dear Mr. Kenyon,--Having missed my pleasure to-day by a coincidence
worse for me than for you, I must, tired as I am to-night, tell
you--ready for to-morrow's return of the books--what I have waited
three whole days hoping to tell you by word of mouth. But mind, before
I begin, I don't do so out of despair ever to see you again, because I
trust steadfastly to your kindness to _come_ again when _you_ are not
'languid' and I am alone as usual; only that I dare not keep back from
you any longer the following message of Miss Mitford. She says: 'Won't
he take us in his way to Torquay? or from Torquay? Beg him to do
so--and of all love, to tell us _when_.' Afterwards, again: 'I think
my father is better. Tell Mr. Kenyon what I say, and stand my friend
with him and beg him to come.'
Which I do in the most effectual way--in her own words.
She is much pleased by means of your introduction. 'Tell dear Mr.
Kenyon how very very much I like Mrs. Leslie. She seems all that is
good and kind, and to add great intelligence and agreeableness to
these prime qualities.'
Now I have done with being a messenger of the gods, and verily my
caduceus is trembling in my hand.
O Mr. Kenyon! what have you done? You will know the interpretation of
the reproach, your conscience holding the key of the cypher.
In the meantime I ought to be thanking you for your great kindness
about this divine Tennyson. Beautiful! beautiful! After all, it
is a noble thing to be a poet. But notwithstanding the poetry of the
novelties--and you will observe that his two preceding volumes (only
one of which I had seen before, having inquired for the other vainly)
are included in these two--nothing appears to me quite equal to
'Oenone,' and perhaps a few besides of my ancient favorites. That is
not said in disparagement of the last, but in admiration of the
first. There is, in fact, more thought--more bare brave working of the
intellect--in the latter poems, even if we miss something of the high
ideality, and the music that goes with it, of the older ones. Only I
am always inclined to believe that philosophic thinking, like music,
is involved, however occultly, in high ideality of any kind.
You have not a key to the cypher of this at least, and I am so tired
that one word seems tumbling over another all the way.
Ever affectionately yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
You will let me keep your beautiful ballad and the gods a little
[Footnote 66: This refers to the recent publication of Tennyson's
_Poems_, in two volumes, the first containing a re-issue of poems
previously published, while the second was wholly new, and included
such poems as the 'Morte d'Arthur,' 'Ulysses,' and 'Locksley Hall.']
[Footnote 67: No doubt Mr. Kenyon's translation of Schiller's 'Gods
of Greece,' which was the occasion of Miss Barrett's poem 'The Dead
_To H.S. Boyd_
September 14, 1842.
My very dear Friend,--I have made you wait a long time for the 'North
American Review,' because when your request came it was no longer
within my reach, and because since then I have not been so well
as usual from a sweep of the wing of the prevailing epidemic. Now,
however, I am _better_ than I was even before the attack, only wishing
that it were possible to hook-and-eye on another summer to the hem
of the garment of this last sunny one. At the end of such a double
summer, to measure things humanly, I might be able to go to see you at
Hampstead. Nevertheless, winters and adversities are more fit for us
than a constant sun.
I suppose, dear Mr. Boyd, you want only to have this review read to
you, and not _written_. Because it isn't out of laziness that I send
the book to you; and Arabel would copy whatever you please willingly,
provided you wished it. Keep the book as long as you please. I have
put a paper mark and a pencil mark at the page and paragraph where I
am taken up. It seems to me that the condemnation of 'The Seraphim' is
not too hard. The poem wants _unity_.
As to your 'words of fire' about Wordsworth, if I had but a cataract
at command I would try to quench them. His powers should not be judged
of by my extracts or by anybody's extracts from his last-published
volume. Do you remember his grand ode upon Childhood--worth, to my
apprehension, just twenty of Dryden's 'St. Cecilia's Day'--his sonnet
upon Westminster Bridge, his lyric on a lark, in which the lark's
music swells and exults, and the many noble and glorious passages
of his 'Excursion'? You must not indeed blame me for estimating
Wordsworth at _his height_, and on the other side I readily confess to
you that he is occasionally, and not unfrequently, heavy and dull, and
that Coleridge had an intenser genius. Tell me if you know anything of
Tennyson. He has just published two volumes of poetry, one of which is
a republication, but both full of inspiration.
Ever my very dear friend's affectionate and grateful
[Footnote 68: _Poems, chiefly of early and late years, including The
Borderers, a Tragedy_ (1842).]
_To Mrs. Martin_
50 Wimpole Street: October 22, 1842.
My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Waiting first for you to write to me, and
then waiting that I might write to you cheerfully, has ended by making
so long a silence that I am almost ashamed to break it. And perhaps,
even if I were not ashamed, you would be angry--perhaps you _are_
angry, and don't much care now whether or not you ever hear from me
again. Still I must write, and I must moreover ask you to write to me
again; and I must in particular assure you that I have continued to
love you sincerely, notwithstanding all the silence which might seem
to say the contrary. What I should like best just now is to have a
letter speaking comfortable details of your being comparatively well
again; yet I hope on without it that you really are so much better as
to be next to quite well. It was with great concern that I heard
of the indisposition which hung about you, dearest Mrs. Martin,
so long--I who had congratulated myself when I saw you last on the
promise of good health in your countenance. May God bless you, and
keep you better! And may you take care of yourself, and remember how
many love you in the world, from dear Mr. Martin down to--E.B.B.
Well, now I must look around me and consider what there is to tell
you. But I have been uneasy in various ways, sometimes by reason and
sometimes by fantasy; and even now, although my dear old friend Dr.
Scully is something better, he lies, I fear, in a very precarious
state, while dearest Miss Mitford's letters from the deathbed of her
father make my heart ache as surely almost as the post comes. There
is nothing more various in character, nothing which distinguishes
one human being from another more strikingly, than the expression of
feeling, the manner in which it influences the outward man. If I were
in her circumstances, I should sit paralysed--it would be impossible
to me to write or to cry. And she, who loves and feels with the
intensity of a nature warm in everything, seems to turn to sympathy
by the very instinct of grief, and sits at the deathbed of her last
relative, writing there, in letter after letter, every symptom,
physical or moral--even to the very words of the raving of a delirium,
and those, heart-breaking words! I could not write such letters; but I
know she feels as deeply as any mourner in the world can. And all this
reminds me of what you once asked me about the inscriptions in
Lord Brougham's villa at Nice. There are probably as many different
dialects for the heart as for the tongue, are there not?...
And now you will kindly like to have a word said about myself, and it
need not be otherwise than a word to give your kindness pleasure. The
long splendid summer, exhausting as the heat was to me sometimes, did
me essential good, and left me walking about the room and equal to
going downstairs (which I achieved four or five times), and even to
going out in the chair, without suffering afterwards. And, best of
all, the spitting of blood (I must tell you), which more or less kept
by me continually, _stopped quite_ some six weeks ago, and I have thus
more reasonable hopes of being really and essentially better than
I could have with such a symptom loitering behind accidental
improvements. Weak enough, and with a sort of pulse which is not
excellent, I certainly remain; but still, if I escape any decided
attack this winter--and I am in garrison now--there are expectations
of further good for next summer, and I may recover some moderate
degree of health and strength again, and be able to _do_ good instead
of receiving it only.
I write under the eyes of Wordsworth. Not Wordsworth's living eyes,
although the actual living poet had the infinite kindness to ask Mr.
Kenyon twice last summer when he was in London, if he might not
come to see me. Mr. Kenyon said 'No'--I couldn't have said 'No' to
Wordsworth, though I had never gone to sleep again afterwards. But
this Wordsworth who looks on me now is Wordsworth in a picture. Mr.
Haydon the artist, with the utmost kindness, has sent me the portrait
he was painting of the great poet--an unfinished portrait--and I am
to keep it until he wants to finish it. Such a head! such majesty! and
the poet stands musing upon Helvellyn! And all that--poet, Helvellyn,
and all--is in my room!
Give my kind love to Mr. Martin--_our_ kind love, indeed, to both of
you--and believe me, my dearest Mrs. Martin,
Your ever affectionate BA.
Is there any hope for us of you before the winter ends? Do consider.
_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, October 31, 1842.
My very dear Friend,--I have put off from day to day sending you
these volumes, and in the meantime _I have had a letter from the great
poet_! Did Arabel tell you that my sonnet on the picture was sent to
Mr. Haydon, and that Mr. Haydon sent it to Mr. Wordsworth? The result
was that Mr. Wordsworth wrote to me. King John's barons were never
better pleased with their Charta than I am with this letter.
But I won't tell you any more about it until you have read the poems
which I send you. Read first, to put you into good humour, the sonnet
written on Westminster Bridge, vol. iii. page 78. Then take from the
sixth volume, page 152, the passage beginning 'Within the soul' down
to page 153 at 'despair,' and again at page 155 beginning with
I have seen
A curious child, &c.
down to page 157 to the end of the paragraph. If you admit these
passages to be fine poetry, I wish much that you would justify me
further by reading, out of the _second_ volume, the two poems called
'Laodamia' and 'Tintern Abbey' at page 172 and page 161. I will not
ask you to read any more; but I dare say you will rush on of your own
account, in which case there is a fine ode upon the 'Power of Sound'
in the same volume. Wordsworth is a philosophical and Christian poet,
with depths in his soul to which poor Byron could never reach. Do be
candid. Nay, I need not say so, because you always are, as I am,
Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
[Footnote 69: It was this picture that called forth the sonnet, 'On
a Portrait of Wordsworth by B.R. Haydon' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 62),
alluded to in the next letter.]
[Footnote 70: The following is the letter from Wordsworth which gave
such pleasure to Miss Barrett, and which she treasured among her
papers for the rest of her life. Two slips of the pen have been
corrected between brackets.
'Rydal Mount: Oct. 26, '42.
'Dear Miss Barrett,--Through our common friend Mr. Haydon I have
received a sonnet which his portrait of me suggested. I should have
thanked you sooner for that effusion of a feeling towards myself, with
which I am much gratified, but I have been absent from home and much
'The conception of your sonnet is in full accordance with the
painter's intended work, and the expression vigorous; yet the word
"ebb," though I do not myself object to it, nor wish to have it
altered, will I fear prove obscure to nine readers out of ten.
"A vision free
And noble, Haydon, hath thine art released."
Owing to the want of inflections in our language the construction here
is obscure. Would it not be a little [better] thus? I was going to
write a small change in the order of the words, but I find it would
not remove the objection. The verse, as I take it, would be somewhat
clearer thus, if you would tolerate the redundant syllable:
"By a vision free
And noble, Haydon, is thine art released."
I had the gratification of receiving, a good while ago, two copies of
a volume of your writing, which I have read with much pleasure, and
beg that the thanks which I charged a friend to offer may be repeated
'It grieved me much to hear from Mr. Kenyon that your health is so
much deranged. But for that cause I should have presumed to call upon
you when I was in London last spring.
'With every good wish, I remain, dear Miss Barrett, your much obliged
[Postmark: Ambleside, Oct. 28, 1842.]
It may be added that although Miss Barrett altered the passage
criticised by the great poet, she did not accept his amendment. It now
'A noble vision free
Our Haydon's hand has flung out from the mist.
_To H.S. Boyd_
December 4, 1842.
My very dear Friend,--You will think me in a discontented state of
mind when I knit my brows like a 'sleeve of care' over your kind
praises. But the truth is, I _won't_ be praised for being liberal in
Calvinism and love of Byron. _I_ liberal in commending Byron! Take out
my heart and try it! look at it and compare it with yours; and answer
and tell me if I do not love and admire Byron more warmly than you
yourself do. I suspect it indeed. Why, I am always reproached for my
love to Byron. Why, people say to me, '_You_, who overpraise Byron!'
Why, when I was a little girl (and, whatever you may think, my
tendency is not to cast off my old loves!) I used to think seriously
of dressing up like a boy and running away to be Lord Byron's page.
And _I_ to be praised now for being 'liberal' in admitting the merit
of his poetry! _I_!
As for the Calvinism, I don't choose to be liberal there either.
I don't call myself a Calvinist. I hang suspended between the two
doctrines, and hide my eyes in God's love from the sights which other
people _say_ they see. I believe simply that the saved are saved by
grace, and that they shall hereafter know it fully; and that the lost
are lost by their choice and free will--by choosing to sin and die;
and I believe absolutely that the deepest damned of all the lost will
not dare to whisper to the nearest devil that reproach of Martha: 'If
the Lord had been near me, I had not died.' But of the means of the
working of God's grace, and of the time of the formation of the
Divine counsels, I know nothing, guess nothing, and struggle to
guess nothing; and my persuasion is that when people talk of what was
ordained or approved by God before the foundations of the world, their
tendency is almost always towards a confusion of His eternal nature
with the human conditions of ours; and to an oblivion of the fact that
with _Him_ there can be no after nor before.
At any rate, I do not find it good for myself to examine any more the
brickbats of controversy--there is more than enough to think of in
truths clearly revealed; more than enough for the exercise of the
intellect and affections and adorations. I would rather not suffer
myself to be disturbed, and perhaps irritated, where it is not likely
that I should ever be informed. And although you tell me that your
system of investigation is different from some others, answer me with
your accustomed candour, and admit, my very dear friend, that this
argument does not depend upon the construction of a Greek sentence or
the meaning of a Greek word. Let a certain word be 'fore-know' or
'publicly _favor_,' room for a stormy controversy yet remains. I went
through the Romans with you partially, and wholly by myself, by your
desire, and in reference to the controversy, long ago; and I could not
then, and cannot now, enter into that view of Taylor and Adam Clarke,
and yourself I believe, as to the _Jews and Gentiles_. Neither could
I conceive that a particular part of the epistle represents an actual
dialogue between a Jew and Gentile, since the form of question and
answer appears to me there simply rhetorical. The Apostle Paul was
learned in rhetoric; and I think he described so, by a rhetorical and
vivacious form, that struggle between the flesh and the spirit common
to all Christians; the spirit being triumphant through God in Christ
Jesus. These are my impressions. Yours are different. And since we
should not probably persuade each other, and since we are both of us
fond of and earnest in what we fancy to be the truth, why should
we cast away the thousand sympathies we rejoice in, religious and
otherwise, for the sake of a fruitless contention? 'What!' you would
say (by the time we had quarrelled half an hour), 'can't you talk
without being excited?' Half an hour afterwards: 'Pray _do_ lower
your voice--it goes through my head!' In another ten minutes: 'I could
scarcely have believed you to be so obstinate.' In another: 'Your
prejudices are insurmountable, and your reason most womanly--you are
degenerated to the last degree.' In another--why, _then_ you would
turn me and Flush out of the room and so finish the controversy
Was I wrong too, dearest Mr. Boyd, in sending the poems to the
'Athenaeum'? Well, I meant to be right. I fancied that you would
rather they were sent; and as your _name_ was not attached, there
could be no harm in leaving them to the editor's disposal. They
are not inserted, as I anticipated. The religious character was a
sufficient objection--their character of _prayer_. Mr. Dilke begged me
once, while I was writing for him, to write the name of God and Jesus
Christ as little as I could, because those names did not accord with
the secular character of the journal!
Ever your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
Tell me how you like the sonnet; but you won't (I prophesy) like it.
Keep the 'Athenaeum.'
[Footnote 71: The Greek [Greek: progignoskein], used in Romans viii.
_To H.S. Boyd_
December 24, 1842.
My very dear Friend,--I am afraid that you will infer from my silence
that you have affronted me into ill temper by your parody upon my
sonnet. Yet 'lucus a non lucendo' were a truer derivation. I laughed
and thanked you over the parody, and put off writing to you until I
had the headache, which forced me to put it off again....
May God bless you, my dear Mr. Boyd. Mr. Savage Landor once said that
anybody who could write a parody deserved to be shot; but as he has
written one himself since saying so, he has probably changed his mind.
Arabel sends her love.
Ever your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
_To H.S. Boyd_
January 5, 1842 .
My very dear Friend,--My surprise was inexpressible at your utterance
of the name. What! Ossian superior as a poet to Homer! Mr. Boyd saying
so! Mr. Boyd treading down the neck of Aeschylus while he praises
Ossian! The fact appears to me that anomalous thing among believers--a
miracle without an occasion.
I confess I never, never should have guessed the name; not though
I had guessed to Doomsday. In the first place I do not believe in
Ossian, and having partially examined the testimony (for I don't
pretend to any exact learning about it) I consider him as the poetical
_lay figure_ upon which Mr. Macpherson dared to cast his personality.
There is a sort of phraseology, nay, an identity of occasional
phrases, from the antique--but that these so-called Ossianic poems
were ever discovered and translated as they stand in their present
form, I believe in no wise. As Dr. Johnson wrote to Macpherson, so I
would say, 'Mr. Macpherson, I thought you an impostor, and think so
It is many years ago since I looked at Ossian, and I never did much
delight in him, as that fact proves. Since your letter came I have
taken him up again, and have just finished 'Carthon.' There are
beautiful passages in it, the most beautiful beginning, I think,
'Desolate is the dwelling of Moina,' and the next place being filled
by that address to the sun you magnify so with praise. But the charm
of these things is the _only_ charm of all the poems. There is a sound
of wild vague music in a monotone--nothing is articulate, nothing
_individual_, nothing various. Take away a few poetical phrases from
these poems, and they are colourless and bare. Compare them with the
old burning ballads, with a wild heart beating in each. How cold they
grow in the comparison! Compare them with Homer's grand breathing
personalities, with Aeschylus's--nay, but I cannot bear upon my lips
or finger the charge of the blasphemy of such comparing, even for
I had another letter from America a few days since, from an American
poet of Boston who is establishing a magazine, and asked for
contributions from my pen. The Americans are as good-natured to me as
if they took me for the high Radical I am, you know.
You won't be angry with me for my obliquity (as you will consider it)
about Ossian. You know I always talk sincerely to you, and you have
not made me afraid of telling you the truth--that is, _my_ truth, the
truth of my belief and opinions.
I do not defend much in the 'Idiot Boy.' Wordsworth is a great poet,
but he does not always write equally.
And that reminds me of a distinction you suggest between Ossian and
Homer. _I_ fashion it in this way: Homer sometimes nods, but Ossian
_makes his readers nod_.
Ever your affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
Did I tell you that I had been reading through a manuscript
translation of the 'Gorgias' of Plato, by Mr. Hyman of Oxford, who is
a stepson of Mr. Haydon's the artist? It is an excellent translation
with learned notes, but it is _not elegant_. He means to try the
public upon it, but, as I have intimated to him, the Christians of the
present day are not civilised enough for Plato.
_To H.S. Boyd_
[About the end of January 1843.]
My very dear Friend,--The image you particularly admire in Ossian, I
admire with you, although I am not sure that I have not seen it or its
like somewhere in a classical poet, Greek or Latin. Perhaps Lord
Byron remembered it when in the 'Siege of Corinth' he said of
his Francesca's uplifted arm, 'You might have seen the moon shine
through.' It reminds me also that Maclise the artist, a man of
poetical imagination, gives such a transparency to the ghost of Banquo
in his picture of Macbeth's banquet, that we can discern through it
the lights of the festival. That is good poetry for a painter, is it
I send you the magazines which I have just received from America, and
which contain, one of them, 'The Cry of the Human,' and the other,
four of my sonnets. My correspondent tells me that the 'Cry' is
considered there one of the most successful of my poems, but you
probably will not think so. Tell me exactly what you do think. At
page 343 of 'Graham's Magazine,' _Editor's Table_, is a review of
me, which, however extravagant in its appreciation, will give your
kindness pleasure. I confess to a good deal of pleasure myself from
these American courtesies, expressed not merely in the magazines,
but in the newspapers; a heap of which has been sent to me by my
correspondent--the 'New York Tribune,' 'The Union,' 'The Union Flag,'
&c.--all scattered over with extracts from my books and benignant
words about their writer. Among the extracts is the whole of the
review of Wordsworth from the London 'Athenaeum,' an unconscious
compliment, as they do not guess at the authorship, and one which you
won't thank them for. Keep the magazines, as I have duplicates.
Dearest Mr. Boyd, since you admit that I am not prejudiced about
Ossian, I take courage to tell you what I am thinking of.
_I am thinking_ (this is said in a whisper, and in confidence--of two
kinds), _I am thinking that you don't admire him quite as much as you
did three weeks ago_.
Ever most affectionately yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
Arabel not being here, I send her love without asking for it.
_To Mrs. Martin_
January 30, 1843.
My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Thank you for your letter and for dear Mr.
Martin's thought of writing one! Ah! _I_ thought he would not write,
but not for the reason you say; it was something more palpable and
less romantic! Well, I will not grumble any more about not having my
letter, since you are coming, and since you seem, my dear Mrs. Martin,
something in better spirits than your note from Southampton bore
token of. Madeira is the Promised Land, you know; and you should hope
hopefully for your invalid from his pilgrimage there. You should hope
with those who hope, my dearest Mrs. Martin....
Our '_event_' just now is a new purchase of a 'Holy Family,' supposed
to be by Andrea del Sarto. It has displaced the Glover over the
chimney-piece in the drawing-room, and dear Stormie and Alfred nearly
broke their backs in carrying it upstairs for me to see before the
placing. It is probably a fine picture, and I seem to see my
way through the dark of my ignorance, to admire the grouping and
colouring, whatever doubt as to the expression and divinity may occur
otherwise. Well, you will judge. I won't tell you _how_ I think of it.
And you won't care if I do. There is also a new very pretty landscape
piece, and you may imagine the local politics of the arrangement and
hanging, with their talk and consultation; while _I_, on the storey
higher, have my arranging to manage of my pretty new books and my
three hyacinths, and a pot of primroses which dear Mr. Kenyon had the
good nature to carry himself through the streets to our door. But all
the flowers forswear me, and die either suddenly or gradually as soon
as they become aware of the want of fresh air and light in my room.
Talking of air and light, what exquisite weather this is! What a
summer in winter! It is the fourth day since I have had the fire wrung
from me by the heat of temperature, and I sit here _very warm indeed_,
notwithstanding that bare grate. Nay, yesterday I had the door thrown
open for above an hour, and was warm still! You need not ask, you see,
how I am.
Tell me, have you read Mr. Dickens's 'America;' and what is your
thought of it like? If I were an American, it would make me rabid, and
certain of the free citizens _are_ furious, I understand, while others
'speak peace and ensue it,' admire as much of the book as deserves
any sort of admiration, and attribute the blameable parts to the
prejudices of the party with whom the writer 'fell in,' and not to
a want of honesty or brotherhood in his own intentions. I admire Mr.
Dickens as an imaginative writer, and I love the Americans--I cannot
possibly admire or love this book. Does Mr. Martin? Do _you_?
Henrietta would send her love to you if I could hear her voice nearer
than I do actually, as she sings to the guitar downstairs. And her
love is not the only one to be sent. Give mine to dear Mr. Martin,
though he can't make up his mind to the bore of writing to me. And
remember us all, both of you, as we do you.
Dearest Mrs. Martin, your affectionate BA.
_To James Martin_
February 6, 1843.
You make us out, my dear Mr. Martin, to be such perfect parallel lines
that I should be half afraid of completing the definition by our never
meeting, if it were not for what you say afterwards, of the coming
to London, and of promising to come and see Flush. If you should be
travelling while I am writing, it was only what happened to me when I
wrote not long ago to dearest Mrs. Martin, and everybody in this house
cried out against the fatuity of the coincidence. As if I could know
that she was travelling, when nobody told me, and I wasn't a witch!
If the same thing happens to-day, believe in the innocence of my
ignorance. I shall be consoled if it does--for certain reasons. But
for none in the world can I help thanking you for your letter, which
gave me so much pleasure from the first sight of the handwriting to
the thought of the kindness spent upon me in it, that after all I
cannot thank you as I would.
Yet I won't let you fancy me of such an irrational state of simplicity
as not to be fully aware that _you_, with your 'nature of the fields
and forests,' look down disdainfully and with an inward heat of
glorying, upon _me_ who have all my pastime in books--dead and
seethed. Perhaps, if it were a little warmer, I might even grant that
you are right in your pride. As it is, I grumble feebly to myself
something about the definition of _nature_, and how we in the town
(which 'God made' just as He made your hedges) have _our_ share
of nature too; and then I have secret thoughts of the state of the
thermometer, and wonder how people can breathe out of doors. In the
meantime, Flush, who is a better philosopher, pushes deep into
my furs, and goes to sleep. Perhaps I should fear the omen for my
Oh yes! That picture in 'Boz' is beautiful. For my own part, and by a
natural womanly contradiction, I have never cared so much in my life
for flowers as since being shut out from gardens--unless, indeed, in
the happy days of old when I had a garden of my own, and cut it out
into a great Hector of Troy, in relievo, with a high heroic box nose
and shoeties of columbine. But that was long ago. Now I count the
buds of my primrose with a new kind of interest, and you never
saw such a primrose! I begin to believe in Ovid, and look for a
metamorphosis. The leaves are turning white and springing up as high
as corn. Want of air, and of sun, I suppose. I should be loth to think
it--want of friendship to _me_!
Do you know that the royal Boz lives close to us, three doors from Mr.
Kenyon in Harley Place? The new numbers appear to me admirable, and
full of life and blood--whatever we may say to the thick rouging and
extravagance of gesture. There is a beauty, a tenderness, too, in the
organ scene, which is worthy of the gilliflowers. But my admiration
for 'Boz' fell from its 'sticking place,' I confess, a good furlong,
when I read Victor Hugo; and my creed is, that, _not_ in his
tenderness, which is as much his own as his humour, but in his serious
powerful Jew-trial scenes, he has followed Hugo closely, and never
scarcely looked away from 'Les Trois Jours d'un Condamne.'
If you should not be on the road, I hope you won't be very long
before you are, and that dearest Mrs. Martin will put off building her
greenhouse--you see I believe she _will_ build it--until she gets home
How kind of you and of her to have poor old Mrs. Barker at Colwall!
Do believe me, both of you, with love from all of _us_,
Very affectionately yours,
[Footnote 72: See 'Hector in the Garden' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 37).]
_To H.S. Boyd_
February 21, 1843.
Thank you, my very dear friend, I am as well as the east wind will
suffer me to be; and _that_, indeed, is not very well, my heart being
fuller of all manner of evil than is necessary to its humanity. But
the wind is changed, and the frost is gone, and it is not quite out of
my fancy yet that I may see you next summer. _You and summer are not
out of the question yet_. Therefore, you see, I cannot be very deep
in tribulation. But you may consider it a bad symptom that I have just
finished a poem of some five hundred lines in stanzas, called 'The
Lost Bower,' and about nothing at all in particular.
As to Arabel, she is not an icicle. There are flowers which blow in
the frost--when we brambles are brown with their inward death--and she
is of them, dear thing. _You_ are not a bramble, though, and I hope
that when you talk of 'feeling the cold,' you mean simply to refer
to your sensation, and not to your health. Remember also, dearest Mr.
Boyd, what a glorious winter we have had. Take away the last ten days
and a few besides, and call the whole summer rather than winter. Ought
we to complain, really? Really, no.
I venture another prophecy upon the shoulders of the ast, though my
hand shakes so that nobody will read it.
_You can't abide my 'Cry of the Human,' and four sonnets_. They have
none of them found favor in your eyes.
In or out of favor,
Ever your affectionate E.B.B.
Do you think that next summer you _might, could_, or _would_ walk
across the park to see me--supposing always that I fail in my
aspiration to go and see you? I only ask by way of _hypothesis_.
Consider and revolve it so. We live on the verge of the town rather
than in it, and our noises are cousins to silence; and you should pass
into a room where the silence is most absolute. Flush's breathing is
my loudest sound, and then the watch's tickings, and then my own heart
when it beats too turbulently. Judge of the quiet and the solitude!
[Footnote 73: _Poetical Works_, iii. 105.]
_To H.S. Boyd_
April 19, 1843.
My very dear Friend,--The earth turns round, to be sure, and we turn
with it, but I never anticipated the day and the hour for _you_ to
turn round and be guilty of high treason to our Greeks. I cry '_Ai_!
_ai_!' as if I were a chorus, and all vainly. For, you see, arguing
about it will only convince you of my obstinacy, and not a bit of
Homer's supremacy. Ossian has wrapt you in a cloud, a fog, a true
Scotch mist. You have caught cold in the critical faculty, perhaps. At
any rate, I can't see a bit more of your reasonableness than I can see
of Fingal. _Sic transit_! Homer like the darkened half of the moon
in eclipse! You have spoilt for me now the finest image in your
My dearest Mr. Boyd, you will find as few believers in the genuineness
of these volumes among the most accomplished antiquarians in poetry
as in the genuineness of Chatterton's Rowley, and of Ireland's
Shakespeare. The latter impostures boasted of disciples in the first
instance, but the discipleship perished by degrees, and the place
thereof, during this present 1843, knows it no more. So has it been
with the belief in Macpherson's Ossian. Of those who believed in the
poems at the first sight of them, who kept his creed to the end? And
speaking so, I speak of Macpherson's contemporaries whom you respect.
I do not consider Walter Scott a great poet, but he was highly
accomplished in matters of poetical antiquarianism, and is certainly
citable as an authority on this question.
Try not to be displeased with me. I cannot conceal from you that my
astonishment is profound and unutterable at your new religion--your
new faith in this pseud-Ossian--and your desecration, in his service,
of the old Hellenic altars. And by the way, my own figure reminds me
to inquire of you whether you are not sometimes struck with a _want_
in him--a want very grave in poetry, and very strange in antique
poetry--the want of devotional feeling and conscience of God. Observe,
that all antique poets rejoice greatly and abundantly in their divine
mythology; and that if this Ossian be both antique and godless, he is
an exception, a discrepancy, a monster in the history of letters and
experience of humanity. As such I leave him.
Oh, how angry you will be with me. But you seemed tolerably prepared
in your last letter for my being in a passion.... Ever affectionately
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
Why should I be angry with Flush? _He_ does not believe in Ossian. Oh,
I assure you he doesn't.
The following letter was called forth by a criticism of Mr. Kenyon's
on Miss Barrett's poem, _The Dead Pan_, which he had seen in
manuscript; but it also meets some criticisms which others had made
upon her last volume (see above, p. 65).
_To John Kenyan_
Wimpole Street: March 25, 1843.
My very dear Cousin,--Your kindness having touched me much, and your
good opinion, whether literary or otherwise, being of great price to
me, it is even with tears in my eyes that I begin to write to you upon
a difference between us. And what am I to say? To admit, of course,
in the first place, the injuriousness to the 'popularity,' of the
scriptural tone. But am I to sacrifice a principle to popularity?
Would you advise me to do so? Should I be more worthy of your kindness
by doing so? and could you (apart from the kindness) call my refusal
to do so either perverseness or obstinacy? Even if you could, I hope
you will try a little to be patient with me, and to forgive, at least,
what you find it impossible to approve.
My dear cousin, if you had not reminded me of Wordsworth's
I would rather be
A pagan, suckled in a creed outworn--
and if he had never made it, I do think that its significance would
have occurred to me, by a sort of instinct, in connection with this
discussion. Certainly _I_ would rather be a pagan whose religion
was actual, earnest, continual--for week days, work days, and song
days--than I would be a _Christian_ who, from whatever motive, shrank
from hearing or uttering the name of Christ out of a 'church.' I am no
fanatic, but I like truth and earnestness in all things, and I cannot
choose but believe that such a Christian shows but ill beside such
a pagan. What pagan poet ever thought of casting his gods out of
his poetry? In what pagan poem do they not shine and thunder? And if
_I_--to approach the point in question--if _I_, writing a poem the
end of which is the extolment of what I consider to be Christian truth
over the pagan myths shrank even _there_ from naming the name of my
God lest it should not meet the sympathies of some readers, or lest it
should offend the delicacies of other readers, or lest, generally,
it should be unfit for the purposes of poetry in what more forcible
manner than by that act (I appeal to Philip against Philip) can I
controvert my own poem, or secure to myself and my argument a logical
and unanswerable shame? If Christ's name is improperly spoken in that
poem, then indeed is Schiller right, and the true gods of poetry are
to be sighed for mournfully. For be sure that _Burns_ was right, and
that a poet without devotion is below his own order, and that poetry
without religion will gradually lose its elevation. And then, my dear
friend, we do not live among dreams. The Christian religion is true or
it is not, and if it is true it offers the highest and purest objects
of contemplation. And the poetical faculty, which expresses the
highest moods of the mind, passes naturally to the highest objects.
Who can separate these things? Did Dante? Did Tasso? Did Petrarch? Did
Calderon? Did Chaucer? Did the poets of our best British days? Did any
one of these shrink from speaking out Divine names when the occasion
came? Chaucer, with all his jubilee of spirit and resounding laughter,
had the name of Jesus Christ and God as frequently to familiarity on
his lips as a child has its father's name. You say 'our religion
is not vital--not week-day--enough.' Forgive me, but _that_ is a
confession of a wrong, not an argument. And if a poet be a poet, it is
his business to work for the elevation and purification of the public
mind, rather than for his own popularity! while if he be not a poet,
no sacrifice of self-respect will make amends for a defective faculty,
nor _ought_ to make amends.
My conviction is that the _poetry of Christianity_ will one day be
developed greatly and nobly, and that in the meantime we are wrong,
poetically as morally, in desiring to restrain it. No, I never felt
repelled by any Christian phraseology in Cowper--although he is not a
favorite poet of mine from other causes--nor in Southey, nor even
in James Montgomery, nor in Wordsworth where he writes
'ecclesiastically,' nor in Christopher North, nor in Chateaubriand,
nor in Lamartine.
It is but two days ago since I had a letter--and not from a
fanatic--to reproach my poetry for not being Christian enough, and
this is not the first instance, nor the second, of my receiving such
a reproach. I tell you this to open to you the possibility of another
side to the question, which makes, you see, a triangle of it!
Can you bear with such a long answer to your letter, and forbear
calling it a 'preachment'? There may be such a thing as an awkward and
untimely introduction of religion, I know, and I have possibly
been occasionally guilty in this way. But for _my principle_ I must
contend, for it is a poetical principle _and more_, and an entire
sincerity in respect to it is what I owe to you and to myself. Try to
forgive me, dear Mr. Kenyon. I would propitiate your indulgence for me
by a libation of your own eau de Cologne poured out at your feet!
It is excellent eau de Cologne, and you are very kind to me,
but, notwithstanding all, there is a foreboding within me that my
'conventicleisms' will be inodorous in your nostrils.
_To John Kenyon_
Tuesday [about March 1843].
My very dear Cousin,--I have read your letter again and again, and
feel your kindness fully and earnestly. You have advised me about the
poem, entering into the questions referring to it with the warmth
rather of the author of it than the critic of it, and this I am
sensible of as absolutely as anyone can be. At the same time, I have a
strong perception rather than opinion about the poem, and also, if you
would not think it too serious a word to use in such a place, I have
a _conscience_ about it. It was not written in a desultory fragmentary
way, the last stanzas thrown in, as they might be thrown out, but with
a _design_, which leans its whole burden on the last stanzas. In fact,
the last stanzas were in my mind to say, and all the others presented
the mere avenue to the end of saying them. Therefore I cannot throw
them out--I cannot yield to the temptation even of pleasing _you_ by
doing so; I make a compromise with myself, and _do not throw them
out, and do not print the poem_. Now say nothing against this, my dear
cousin, because I am obstinate, as you know, as you have good evidence
for knowing. I _will not_ either alter or print it. Then you have your
manuscript copy, which you can cut into any shape you please as long
as you keep it out of print; and seeing that the poem really does
belong to you, having had its origin in your paraphrase of Schiller's
stanzas, I see a great deal of poetical justice in the manuscript
copyright remaining in your hands. For the rest I shall have quite
enough to print and to be responsible for without it, and I am quite
satisfied to let it be silent for a few years until either I or you
(as may be the case even with _me_!) shall have revised our judgments
in relation to it.
This being settled, you must suffer me to explain (for mere personal
reasons, and not for the good of the poem) that no mortal priest (of
St. Peter's or otherwise) is referred to in a particular stanza, but
the Saviour Himself. Who is 'the High Priest of our profession,' and
the only 'priest' recognised in the New Testament. In the same way the
altar candles are altogether spiritual, or they could not be supposed,
even by the most amazing poetical exaggeration, to 'light the earth
and skies.' I explain this, only that I may not appear to you to have
compromised the principle of the poem, by compromising any truth (such
in my eyes) for the sake of a poetical effect.
And now I will not say any more. I know that you will be inclined
to cry, 'Print it in any case,' but I will entreat of your kindness,
which I have so much right to trust in while entreating, _not to say
one such word. Be kind, and let me follow my own way silently_. I have
not, indeed, like a spoilt child in a fret, thrown the poem up because
I would not alter it, though you have done much to spoil me. I act
advisedly, and have made up my mind as to what is the wisest and best
thing to do, and personally the pleasantest to myself, after a good
deal of serious reflection. 'Pan is dead,' and so best, for the
present at least.
I shall take your advice about the preface in every respect, and
thanks for the letter and Taylor's memoirs.
Miss Mitford talks of coming to town for a day, and of bringing Flush
with her, as soon as the weather settles, and to-day looks so like
it that I have mused this morning on the possibility of breaking
my prison doors and getting into the next room. Only there is a
forbidding north wind, they say.
Don't be vexed with me, dear Mr. Kenyon. You know there are
obstinacies in the world as well as mortalities, and thereto
appertaining. And then you will perceive through all mine, that it is
difficult for me to act against your judgment so far as to put my own
tenacity into print.
Ever gratefully and affectionately yours,
[Footnote 74: 'The Dead Pan' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 280).]
It is to the honour of America that it recognised from the first the
genius of Miss Barrett; and for a large part of her life some of the
closest of her personal and literary connections were with Americans.
The same is true in both respects of Robert Browning. As appears from
some letters printed farther on in these volumes, at a time when the
sale of his poems in England was almost infinitesimal, they were known
and highly prized in the United States. Expressions of Mrs. Browning's
sympathy with America and of gratitude for the kindly feelings of
Americans recur frequently in the letters, and it is probable that
there are still extant in the States many letters written to friends
and correspondents there. Only three or four such have been made
available for the present collection; and of these the first follows
here in its place in the chronological sequence. It was written to Mr.
Cornelius Mathews, then editor of 'Graham's Magazine,' who had
invited Miss Barrett to send contributions to his periodical. The warm
expression in it of sympathy with the poetry of Robert Browning, whom
she did not yet know personally, is especially interesting to readers
of this later day, who, like the spectators at a Greek tragedy, watch
the development of a drama of which the _denouement_ is already known
_To Cornelius Mathews_
50 Wimpole Street: April 28, 1843.
My dear Mr. Mathews,--In replying to your kind letter I send some
more verse for Graham's, praying such demi-semi-gods as preside over
contributors to magazines that I may not appear over-loquacious to
my editor. Of course it is not intended to thrust three or four poems
into one number. My pluralities go to you simply to 'bide your
time,' and be used one by one as the opportunity is presented. In the
meanwhile you have received, I hope, a short letter written to explain
my unwillingness to apply, as you desired me at first, to Wiley and
Putnam--an unwillingness justified by what you told me afterwards.
I did not apply, nor have I applied, and I would rather not apply
at all. Perhaps I shall hear from them presently. The pamphlet on
International Copyright is welcome at a distance, but it has not come
near me yet; and for all your kindness in relation to the prospective
gift of your works I thank you again and earnestly. You are kind to me
in many ways, and I would willingly know as much of your intellectual
habits as you teach me of your genial feelings. This 'Pathfinder'
(what an excellent name for an American journal!) I also owe to you,
with the summing up of your performances in it, and with a notice
of Mr. Browning's 'Blot on the Scutcheon,' which would make one
poet furious (the 'infelix Talfourd') and another a little
melancholy--namely, Mr. Browning himself. There is truth on both
sides, but it seems to me hard truth on Browning. I do assure you I
never saw him in my life--do not know him even by correspondence--and
yet, whether through fellow-feeling for Eleusinian mysteries, or
whether through the more generous motive of appreciation of his
powers, I am very sensitive to the thousand and one stripes with which
the assembly of critics doth expound its vocation over him, and the
'Athenaeum,' for instance, made me quite cross and misanthropical last
week. The truth is--and the world should know the truth--it is
easier to find a more faultless writer than a poet of equal genius.
Don't let us fall into the category of the sons of Noah. Noah was once
drunk, indeed, but once he built the ark. Talking of poets, would
your 'Graham's Miscellany' care at all to have occasional poetical
contributions from Mr. Horne? I am in correspondence with him, and
I think I could manage an arrangement upon the same terms as my
engagement rests on, if you please and your friends please, that is,
and without formality, if it should give you any pleasure. He is a
writer of great power, I think. And this reminds me that you may be
looking all the while for the 'Athenaeum's' reply to your friend's
proposition--of which I lost no time in apprising the editor, Mr.
Dilke, and here are some of his words: 'An American friend who had
been long in England, and often conversed with me on the subject,
resolved on his return to establish such a correspondence. In all
things worth knowing--all reviews of good books' (which 'are published
first or simultaneously,' says Mr. Dilke, 'in London'), 'he was
anticipated, and after some months he was driven of necessity to
geological surveys, centenary celebrations, progress of railroads,
manufactures, &c., and thus the prospect was abandoned altogether.'
Having made this experiment, Mr. Dilke is unwilling to risk another.
Neither must we blame him for the reserve. When the international
copyright shall at once protect the national _meum_ and _tuum_ in
literature and give it additional fullness and value, we shall cease
to say insolently to you that what we want of your books we will get
without your help, but as it is, the Mr. Dilkes of us have nothing
much more courteous to do. I wish I could have been of any use to
your friend--I have done what I could. In regard to critical papers
of mine, I would willingly give myself up to you, seeing your good
nature; but it is the truth that I never published any prose papers
at all except the series on the Greek Christian poets and the other
series on the English poets in the 'Athenaeum' of last year, and both
of which you have probably seen. Afterwards I threw up my brief and
went back to my poetry, in which I feel that I must do whatever I am
equal to doing at all. That life is short and art long appears to us
more true than usual when we lie all day long on a sofa and are as
frightened of the east wind as if it were a tiger. Life is not only
short, but uncertain, and art is not only long, but absorbing. What
have I to do with writing '_scandal_' (as Mr. Jones would say) upon
my neighbour's work, when I have not finished my own? So I threw up my
brief into Mr. Dilke's hands, and went back to my verses. Whenever I
print another volume you shall have it, if Messrs. Wiley and Putnam
will convey it to you. How can I send you, by the way, anything I may
have to send you? Why will you not, as a nation, embrace our great
penny post scheme, and hold our envelopes in all acceptation? You do
not know--cannot guess--what a wonderful liberty our Rowland Hill has
given to British spirits, and how we '_flash_ a thought' instead of
'wafting' it from our extreme south to our extreme north, paying 'a
penny for our thought' and for the electricity included. I recommend
you our penny postage as the most successful revolution since the
'glorious three days' of Paris.
And so, you made merry with my scorn of my 'Prometheus.' Believe
me--believe me absolutely--I did not strike that others might spare,
but from an earnest remorse. When you know me better, you will know,
I hope, that I am _true_, whether right or wrong, and you know already
that I am right in this thing, the only merit of the translation being
its closeness. Can I be of any use to you, dear Mr. Mathews? When I
can, make use of me. You surprise and disappoint me in your sketch of
the Boston poet, for the letter he wrote to me struck me as frank and
honest. I wonder if he made any use of the verses I sent him; and
I wonder what I sent him--for I never made a note of it, through
negligence, and have quite forgotten. Are you acquainted with
Mrs. Sigourney? She has offended us much by her exposition of Mrs.
Southey's letter, and I must say not without cause. I rejoice in the
progress of 'Wakondah,' wishing the influences of mountain and river
to be great over him and in him. And so I will say the 'God bless you'
your kindness cares to hear, and remain,
Sincerely and thankfully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
_(Endorsed in another hand)_
E.B. Barrett, London, received May 12, 1843,
4 poems, previously furnished to _Graham's Magazine_, $50.
[Footnote 75: The _Athenaeum_ of April 22 contained a review of
Browning's 'Dramatic Lyrics,' charging him with taking pleasure in
being enigmatical, and declaring this to be a sign of weakness, not
strength. It spoke of many of the pieces composing the volume as being
rather fragments and sketches than having any right to independent
_To John Kenyan_
May 1, 1843
My dear Cousin,--Here is my copyright for you, and you will see that I
have put 'word' instead of 'sound,' as certainly the proper 'word.' Do
let me thank you once more for all the trouble and interest you have
taken with me and in me. Observe besides that I have altered the title
according to your unconscious suggestion, and made it 'The Dead
Pan,' which is a far better name, I think, than the repetition of the
But I spoil my exemplary docility so far, by confessing that I don't
like 'scornful children' half--no, not half so well as my 'railing
children,' although, to be sure, you proved to me that the last was
nigh upon nonsense. You proved it--that is, you almost proved it, for
don't we say--at least, _mightn't_ we say--'the thunder was silent'?
'_thunder_' involving the idea of noise, as much as 'railing children'
do. Consider this--I give it up to you.
I am ashamed to have kept Carlyle so long, but I quite failed in
trying to read him at my "usual pace--he _won't_ be read quick. After
all, and full of beauty and truth as that book is, and strongly as it
takes hold of my sympathies, there is nothing new in it--not even a
new Carlyleism, which I do not say by way of blaming the book, because
the author of it might use words like the apostle's: 'To write the
same things unto you, to me indeed is not grievous, and to you it is
safe.' The world being blind and deaf and rather stupid, requires a
reiteration of certain uncongenial truths....
Thank you for the address.
Ever affectionately yours,
I observe that the _most questionable rhymes_ are not objected to by
Mr. Merivale; also--but this letter is too long already.
[Footnote 76: Mr. Kenyon's view evidently prevailed, for stanza 19 now
has 'scornful children.']
_To Mrs. Martin_
May 3, 1843.
My dearest Mrs. Martin,--If _you_ promised (which you did), _I_ ought
to have promised--and therefore we may ask each other's pardon....
How is the dog? and how does dear Mr. Martin find himself in Arcadia?
Do we all stand in his recollection like a species of fog, or a
concentrated essence of brick wall? How I wish--and since I said it
aloud to you I have often wished it over in a whisper--that you would
put away your romance, or cut it in two, and spend six months of the
year in London with us! Miss Mitford believes that wishes, if wished
hard enough, realise themselves, but my experience has taught me a
less cheerful creed. Only if wishes _do_ realise themselves!
Miss Mitford is at Bath, where she has spent one week and is about to
spend two, and then goes on her way into Devonshire. She amused me so
the other day by desiring me to look at the date of Mr. Landor's poems
in their first edition, because she was sure that it must be fifty
years since, and she finds him at this 1843, the very Lothario
of Bath, enchanting the wives, making jealous the husbands, and
'enjoying,' altogether, the worst of reputations. I suggested that
if she proved him to be seventy-five, as long as he proved himself
enchanting, it would do no manner of good in the way of practical
ethics; and that, besides, for her to travel round the world to
investigate gentlemen's ages was invidious, and might be alarming as
to the safe inscrutability of ladies' ages. She is delighted with the
_scenery of Bath_, which certainly, take it altogether, marble and
mountains, is the most beautiful town I ever looked upon. Cheltenham,
I think, is a mere commonplace to it, although the avenues are
beautiful, to be sure....
Mrs. Southey complains that she has lost half her income by her
marriage, and her friend Mr. Landor is anxious to persuade, by the
means of intermediate friends, Sir Robert Peel to grant her a pension.
She is said to be in London now, and has at least left Keswick for
ever. It is not likely that Wordsworth should come here this year,
which I am sorry for now, although I should certainly be sorry if he
did come. A happy state of contradiction, not confined either to that
particular movement or no-movement, inasmuch as I was gratified by his
sending me the poem you saw, and yet read it with such extreme pain as
to incapacitate me from judging of it. Such stuff we are made of!
This is a long letter--and you are tired, I feel by instinct!
May God bless you, my dearest Mrs. Martin. Give my love to Mr. Martin,
and think of me as
Your very affectionate,
Henry and Daisy have been to see the _lying in state_, as lying stark
and dead is called whimsically, of the Duke of Sussex. It was a fine
sight, they say.
_To H.S. Boyd_
May 9, 1843 [postmark].
My very dear Friend,--I thank you much for the copies of your
'Anti-Puseyistic Pugilism.' The papers reached my hands quite safely
and so missed setting the world on fire; and I shall be as wary of
them evermore (be sure) as if they were gunpowder. Pray send them
to Mary Hunter. Why not? Why should you think that I was likely to
'object' to your doing so? She will laugh. _I_ laughed, albeit in no
smiling mood; for I have been transmigrating from one room to another,
and your packet found me half tired and half excited, and _whole_
grave. But I could not choose but laugh at your Oxford charge; and
when I had counted your great guns and javelin points and other
military appurtenances of the Punic war, I said to myself--or to
Flush, 'Well, Mr. Boyd will soon be back again with the dissenters.'
Upon which I think Flush said, 'That's a comfort.'
Mary's direction is, 111 London Road, Brighton. You ought to send
the verses to her yourself, if you mean to please her entirely: and
I cannot agree with you that there is the slightest danger in sending
them by the post. Letters are never opened, unless you tempt the flesh
by putting sovereigns, or shillings, or other metallic substances
inside the envelope; and if the devil entered into me causing me
to write a libel against the Queen, I would send it by the post
fearlessly from John o' Groat's to Land's End inclusive.
One of your best puns, if not the best,
Hatching succession apostolical,
With other falsehoods diabolical,
lies in an octosyllabic couplet; and what business has _that_ in your
The 'pearl' of maidens sends her love to you.
Your very affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
_To H.S. Boyd_
May 14, 1843.
My very dear Friend,--I hear with wonder from Arabel of your
repudiation of my word 'octosyllabic' for the two lines in your
controversial poem. Certainly, if you count the syllables on your
fingers, there are ten syllables in each line: of _that_ I am
perfectly aware; but the lines are none the less belonging to the
species of versification called octosyllabic. Do you not observe, my
dearest Mr. Boyd, that the final accent and rhyme fall on the eighth
syllable instead of the tenth, and that _that_ single circumstance
determines the class of verse--that they are in fact octosyllabic
verses with triple rhymes?
Hatching succession apostolical,
With other falsehoods diabolical.
Pope has double rhymes in his heroic verses, but how does he manage
them? Why, he admits eleven syllables, throwing the final accent and
rhyme on the tenth, thus:
Worth makes the man, and want of it the f_e_llow,
The rest is nought but leather and prun_e_lla.
Again, if there is a double rhyme to an octosyllabic verse, there
are always _nine_ syllables in that verse, the final accent and rhyme
falling on the eighth syllable, thus:
Compound for sins that we're incl_i_ned to,
By damning those we have no m_i_nd to.
Again, if there is a triple rhyme to an octosyllabic verse (precisely
the present case) there must always be ten syllables in that verse,
the final accent and rhyme falling on the eighth syllable; thus from
Then in their robes the penit_e_ntials
Are straight presented with cred_e_ntials.
Remember how in arms and p_o_litics,
We still have worsted all your h_o_ly tricks.
You will admit that these last couplets are precisely of the same
structure as yours, and certainly they are octosyllabics, and made use
of by Butler in an octosyllabic poem, whereas yours, to be rendered of
the heroic structure, should run thus:
Hatching at ease succession apostolical,
With many other falsehoods diabolical.
I have written a good deal about an oversight on your part of little
consequence; but as you charged me with a mistake made in cold blood
and under corrupt influences from Lake-mists, why I was determined to
make the matter clear to you. And as to the _influences_, if I were
guilty of this mistake, or of a thousand mistakes, Wordsworth would
not be guilty _in_ me. I think of him now, exactly as I thought of him
during the first years of my friendship for you, only with _an equal_
admiration. He was a great poet to me always, and always, while I have
a soul for poetry, will be so; yet I said, and say in an under-voice,
but steadfastly, that Coleridge was the grander genius. There is
scarcely anything newer in my estimation of Wordsworth than in the
colour of my eyes!
Perhaps I was wrong in saying '_a pun._' But I thought I apprehended a
double sense in your application of the term 'Apostolical succession'
to Oxford's 'breeding' and 'hatching,' words which imply succession in
a way unecclesiastical.
After all which quarrelling, I am delighted to have to talk of your
coming nearer to me--within reach--almost within my reach. Now if I am
able to go in a carriage at all this summer, it will be hard but that
I manage to get across the park and serenade you in Greek under your
Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
_To H.S. Boyd_
May 18, 1843.
My very dear Friend,--Yes, you have surprised me!
I always have thought of you, and I always think and say, that you are
truthful and candid in a supreme degree, and therefore it is not your
candour about Wordsworth which surprises me.
He had the kindness to send me the poem upon Grace Darling when it
first appeared; and with a curious mixture of feelings (for I was much
gratified by his attention in sending it) I yet read it with _so_ much
pain from the nature of the subject, that my judgment was scarcely
free to consider the poetry--I could scarcely determine to myself what
I _thought_ of it from feeling too much.
_But_ I do confess to you, my dear friend, that I suspect--through the
mist of my sensations--the poem in question to be very inferior to his
former poems; I confess that the impression left on my mind is, of
its decided inferiority, and I have heard that the poet's friends and
critics (all except _one_) are mourning over its appearance; sighing
inwardly, 'Wordsworth is old.'
One thing is clear to me, however, and over _that_ I rejoice and
triumph greatly. If you can esteem this poem of 'Grace Darling,' you
must be susceptible to the grandeur and beauty of the poems which
preceded it; and the cause of your past reluctance to recognise the
poet's power must be, as I have always suspected, from your having
given a very partial attention and consideration to his poetry. You
were partial in your attention _I_, perhaps, was injudicious in my
extracts; but with your truth and his genius, I cannot doubt but that
the time will come for your mutual amity. Oh that I could stand as a
herald of peace, with my wool-twisted fillet! I do not understand the
Greek metres as well as you do, but I understand Wordsworth's genius
better, and do you forgive that it should console me.
I will ask about his collegian extraction. Such a question never
occurred to me. Apollo taught him under the laurels, while all the
Muses looked through the boughs.
Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT,
Oh, yes, it delights me that you should be nearer. Of course you know
that Wordsworth is Laureate.
[Footnote 77: Wordsworth was nominated Poet Laureate after the death
of Southey in March 1843.]
_To John Kenyan_
May 19, 1843,
Thank you, my dear cousin, for all your kindness to me. There is
ivy enough for a thyrsus, and I almost feel ready to enact a sort of
Bacchus triumphalis 'for jollitie,' as I see it already planted, and
looking in at me through the window. I never thought to see such a
sight as _that_ in my London room, and am overwhelmed with my own
And then Mr. Browning's note! Unless you say 'nay' to me, I shall keep
this note, which has pleased me so much, yet not more than it ought.
_Now_, I forgive Mr. Merivale for his hard thoughts of my easy rhymes.
But all this pleasure, my dear Mr. Kenyon, I owe to _you_, and shall
remember that I do.
Ever affectionately yours,
_To Mrs. Martin_
May 26, 1843.
... I thank you for your part in the gaining of my bed, dearest Mrs.
Martin, most earnestly; and am quite ready to believe that it
was gained by _wishdom_, which believing is wisdom! No, you would
certainly never recognise my prison if you were to see it. The bed,
like a sofa and no Bed; the large table placed out in the room,
towards the wardrobe end of it; the sofa rolled where a sofa should be
rolled--opposite the arm-chair: the drawers crowned with a coronal
of shelves fashioned by Sette and Co. (of papered deal and crimson
merino) to carry my books; the washing table opposite turned into a
cabinet with another coronal of shelves; and Chaucer's and Homer's
busts in guard over these two departments of English and Greek
poetry; three more busts consecrating the wardrobe which there was no
annihilating; and the window--oh, I must take a new paragraph for the
window, I am out of breath.
In the window is fixed a deep box full of soil, where are _springing
up_ my scarlet runners, nasturtiums, and convolvuluses, although they
were disturbed a few days ago by the revolutionary insertion among
them of a great ivy root with trailing branches so long and wide that
the top tendrils are fastened to Henrietta's window of the higher
storey, while the lower ones cover all my panes. It is Mr. Kenyon's
gift. He makes the like to flourish out of mere flowerpots, and
embower his balconies and windows, and why shouldn't this flourish
with me? But certainly--there is no shutting my eyes to the fact that
it does droop a little. Papa prophesies hard things against it every
morning, 'Why, Ba, it looks worse and worse,' and everybody preaches
despondency. I, however, persist in being sanguine, looking out for
new shoots, and making a sure pleasure in the meanwhile by listening
to the sound of the leaves against the pane, as the wind lifts them
and lets them fall. Well, what do you think of my ivy? Ask Mr. Martin,
if he isn't jealous already.
Have you read 'The Neighbours,' Mary Howitt's translation of Frederica
Bremer's Swedish? Yes, perhaps. Have you read 'The Home,' fresh
from the same springs? _Do_, if you have not. It has not only charmed
me, but made me happier and better: it is fuller of Christianity than
the most orthodox controversy in Christendom; and represents to
my perception or imagination a perfect and beautiful embodiment of
Christian outward life from the inward, purely and tenderly. At the
same time, I should tell you that Sette says, 'I might have liked it
ten years ago, but it is too young and silly to give me any pleasure
now.' For _me_, however, it is not too young, and perhaps it won't be
for you and Mr. Martin. As to Sette, he is among the patriarchs, to
say nothing of the lawyers--and there we leave him....
Ever your affectionate
_To John Kenyan_
50 Wimpole Street:
Wednesday, or is it Thursday? [summer 1843].
My dear Cousin,--... I send you my friend Mr. Horne's new epic,
and beg you, if you have an opportunity, to drop it at Mr. Eagles'
feet, so that he may pick it up and look at it. I have not gone
through it (I have another copy), but it appears to me to be full of
fine things. As to the author's fantasy of selling it for a farthing,
I do not enter into the secret of it--unless, indeed, he should
intend a sarcasm on the age's generous patronage of poetry, which is
[Footnote 78: _Orion_, the early editions of which were sold at a
farthing, in accordance with a fancy of the author. Miss Barrett
reviewed it in the _Athenaum_ (July 1843).]
_To John Kenyan_
June 30, 1843.
Thank you, my dear Mr. Kenyon, for the Camden Society books, and also
for these which I return; and also for the hope of seeing you, which
I kept through yesterday. I honor Mrs. Coleridge for the readiness of
reasoning and integrity in reasoning, for the learning, energy, and
impartiality which she has brought to her purpose, and I agree with
her in many of her objects; and disagree, by opposing her opponents
with a fuller front than she is always inclined to do. In truth, I
can never see anything in these sacramental ordinances except a
prospective sign in one (Baptism), and a memorial sign in the
other, the Lord's Supper, and could not recognise either under any
modification as a peculiar instrument of grace, mystery, or the like.
The tendencies we have towards making mysteries of God's simplicities
are as marked and sure as our missing the actual mystery upon
occasion. God's love is the true mystery, and the sacraments are only
too simple for us to understand. So you see I have read the book in
spite of prophecies. After all I should like to cut it in two--it
would be better for being shorter--and it might be clearer also. There
is, in fact, some dullness and perplexity--a few passages which are,
to my impression, contradictory of the general purpose--something
which is not generous, about nonconformity--and what I cannot help
considering a superfluous tenderness for Puseyism. Moreover she is
certainly wrong in imagining that the ante-Nicene fathers did not as
a body teach regeneration by baptism--even Gregory Nazianzen, the most
spiritual of many, did, and in the fourth century. But, after all,
as a work of theological controversy it is very un-bitter and
well-poised, gentle, and modest, and as the work of a woman _you_ must
admire it and _we_ be proud of it--_that_ remains certain at last.
Poor Mr. Haydon! I am so sorry for his reverse in the cartoons. It
is a thunderbolt to him. I wonder, in the pauses of my regret, whether
Mr. Selous is _your_ friend--whether 'Boadicea visiting the Druids,'
suggested by you, I think, as a subject, is this victorious 'Boadicea'
down for a hundred pound prize? You will tell me when you come.
I have just heard an uncertain rumour of the arrival of your brother.
If it is not all air, I congratulate you heartily upon a happiness
only not past my appreciation.
Ever affectionately yours,
I send the copy of 'Orion' for _yourself_, which you asked for. It is
in the fourth edition.
[Footnote 79: This refers to the competition for the cartoons to be
painted in the Houses of Parliament, in which Haydon was unsuccessful.
The disappointment was the greater, inasmuch as the scheme for
decorating the building with historical pictures was mainly due to his
_To Mrs. Martin_
July 8, 1843.
Thank you, my dearest Mrs. Martin, for your kind sign of interest in
the questioning note, although I will not praise the _stenography_ of
it. I shall be as brief to-day as you, not quite out of revenge,
but because I have been writing to George and am the less prone to
activities from having caught cold in an inscrutable manner, and being
stiff and sore from head to foot and inclined to be a little feverish
and irritable of nerves. No, it is not of the slightest consequence;
I tell you the truth. But I would have written to you the day before
yesterday if it had not been for this something between cramp and
rheumatism, which was rather unbearable at first, but yesterday was
better, and is to-day better than better, and to-morrow will leave me
quite well, if I may prophesy. I only mention it lest you should have
upbraided me for not answering your note in a moment, as it deserved
to be answered. So don't put any nonsense into Georgie's head--forgive
me for beseeching you! I have been very well--downstairs seven or
eight times; lying on the floor in Papa's room; meditating _the
chair_, which would have amounted to more than a meditation except
for this little contrariety. In a day or two more, if this cool warmth
perseveres in serving me, and no Ariel refills me 'with aches,' I
shall fulfil your kind wishes perhaps and be out--and so, no more
Oh, I do believe you think me a Cockney--a metropolitan barbarian! But
I persist in seeing no merit and no superior innocence in being shut
up even in precincts of rose-trees, away from those great sources
of human sympathy and occasions of mental elevation and instruction
without which many natures grow narrow, many others gloomy, and
perhaps, if the truth were known, very few prosper entirely, lit is
not that I, who have always lived a good deal in solitude and live
in it still more now, and love the country even painfully in my
recollections of it, would decry either one or the other--solitude
is most effective in a contrast, and if you do not break the bark
you cannot bud the tree, and, in short (not to be _in long_), I could
write a dissertation, which I will spare you, 'about it and about it.'
Tell George to lend you--nay, I think I will be generous and let him
give you, although the author gave me the book--the copy of the new
epic, 'Orion,' which he has with him. You have probably observed the
advertisement, and are properly instructed that Mr. Horne the poet,
who has sold three editions already at a farthing a copy, and is
selling a fourth at a shilling, and is about to sell a fifth at half
a crown (on the precise principle of the aerial machine--launching
himself into popularity by a first impulse on the people), is my
unknown friend, with whom I have corresponded these four years without
having seen his face. Do you remember the beech leaves sent to me from
Epping Forest? Yes, you must. Well, the sender is the poet, and the
poem I think a very noble one, and I want you to think so too. So
hereby I empower you to take it away from George and keep it for my
sake--if you will!
Dear Mr. Martin was so kind as to come and see me as you commanded,
and I must tell you that I thought him looking so better than well
that I was more than commonly glad to see him. Give my love to him,
and join me in as much metropolitan missionary zeal as will bring you
both to London for six months of the year. Oh, I wish you would come!
Not that it is necessary for _you_, but that it will be _so_ good for
My ivy is growing, and I have _green blinds_, against which there is
an outcry. They say that I do it out of envy, and for the equalisation
Ever your affectionate,
_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: August 1843.
Dear Mr. Westwood,--I thank you very much for the kindness of your
questioning, and am able to answer that notwithstanding the, as it
seems to you, fatal significance of a woman's silence, I am alive
enough to be sincerely grateful for any degree of interest spent upon
me. As to Flush, he should thank you too, but at the present moment he
is quite absorbed in finding a cool place in this room to lie down in,
having sacrificed his usual favorite place at my feet, his head upon
them, oppressed by the torrid necessity of a thermometer above 70. To
Flopsy's acquaintance he would aspire gladly, only hoping that Flopsy
does not 'delight to bark and bite,' like dogs in general, because if
he does Flush would as soon be acquainted with a _cat_, he says, for
he does not pretend to be a hero. Poor Flush! 'the bright summer days
on which I am ever likely to take him out for a ramble over hill and
meadow' are never likely to shine! But he follows, or rather leaps
into my wheeled chair, and forswears merrier company even now, to be
near me. I am a good deal better, it is right to say, and look forward
to a possible prospect of being better still, though I may be shut out
from climbing the Brocken otherwise than in a vision.
You will see by the length of the 'Legend' which I send to you (in
its only printed form) _why_ I do not send it to you in manuscript.
Keep the book as long as you please. My new volume is not yet in the
press, but I am writing more and more in a view to it, pleased with
the thought that some kind hands are already stretched out in welcome
and acceptance of what it may become. Not as idle as I appear, I have
also been writing some fugitive verses for American magazines. This is
my confession. Forgive its tediousness, and believe me thankfully and
very sincerely yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
[Footnote 80: _The Lay of the Brown Rosary_.]
_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: September 2, 1843.
Dear Mr. Westwood,--Your letter comes to remind me how much I ought to
be ashamed of myself.... I received the book in all safety, and read
your kind words about my 'Rosary' with more grateful satisfaction than
appears from the evidence. It is great pleasure to me to have written
for such readers, and it is great hope to me to be able to write for
them. The transcription of the 'Rosary' is a compliment which I never
anticipated, or you should have had the manuscript copy you asked for,
although I have not a perfect one in my hands. The poem is full of
faults, as, indeed, all my poems appear to myself to be when I look
back upon them instead of looking down. I hope to be worthier in
poetry some day of the generous appreciation which you and your
friends have paid me in advance.
Tennyson is a great poet, I think, and Browning, the author of
'Paracelsus,' has to my mind very noble capabilities. Do you know Mr.
Horne's 'Orion,' the poem published for a farthing, to the wonder of
booksellers and bookbuyers who could not understand 'the speculation
in its eyes?' There are very fine things in this poem, and altogether
I recommend it to your attention. But what is 'wanting' in Tennyson?
He can think, he can feel, and his language is highly expressive,
characteristic, and harmonious. I am very fond of Tennyson. He makes
me thrill sometimes to the end of my fingers, as only a true great
You praise me kindly, and if, indeed, the considerations you speak of
could be true of me, I am not one who could lament having 'learnt in
suffering what I taught in song.' In any case, working for the future
and counting gladly on those who are likely to consider any work of
mine acceptable to themselves, I shall be very sure not to forget my
friends at Enfield.
Dear Mr. Westwood, I remain sincerely yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
_To Mrs. Martin_
September 4, 1843. Finished September 5.
My dearest Mrs. Martin, ... I have had a great gratification within
this week or two in receiving a letter--nay, two letters--from Miss
Martineau, one of the last strangers in the world from whom I had any
right to expect a kindness. Yet most kind, most touching in kindness,
were both of these letters, so much so that I was not far from crying
for pleasure as I read them. She is very hopelessly ill, you are
probably aware, at Tynemouth in Northumberland, suffering agonies from
internal cancer, and conquering occasional repose by the strength of
opium, but 'almost forgetting' (to use her own words) 'to wish for
health, in the intense enjoyment of pleasures independent of the
body.' She sent me a little work of hers called 'Traditions of
Palestine.' Her friends had hoped by the stationary character of some
symptoms that the disease was suspended, but lately it is said to be
gaining ground, and the serenity and elevation of her mind are more
and more triumphantly evident as the bodily pangs thicken....
And now I am going to tell you what will surprise you, if you do not
know it already. Stormie and Georgie are passing George's vacation on
the Rhine. You are certainly surprised if you did not know it. Papa
signed and sealed them away on the ground of its being good and
refreshing for both of them, and I was even mixed up a little with the
diplomacy of it, until I found _they were going_, and then it was a
hard, terrible struggle with me to be calm and see them go. But _that_
was childish, and when I had heard from them at Ostend I grew more
satisfied again, and attained to think less of the fatal influences of
_my star_. They went away in great spirits, Stormie 'quite elated,' to
use his own words, and then at the end of the six weeks they _must_ be
at home at Sessions; and no possible way of passing the interim could
be pleasanter and better and more exhilarating for themselves. The
plan was to go from Ostend by railroad to Brussels and Cologne, then
to pass down the Rhine to Switzerland, spend a few days at Geneva, and
a week in Paris as they return. The only fear is that Stormie won't go
to Paris. We have too many friends there--a strange obstacle.
Dearest Mrs. Martin, I am doing something more than writing you a
letter, I think.
May God bless you all with the most enduring consolations! Give my
love to Mr. Martin, and believe also, both of you, in my sympathy. I
am glad that your poor Fanny should be so supported. May God bless her
and all of you!
Dearest Mrs. Martin's affectionate
I am very well for _me_, and was out in the chair yesterday.
_To H.S. Boyd_
September 8, 1843.
My very dear Friend,--I ask you humbly not to fancy me in a passion
whenever I happen to be silent. For a woman to be silent is ominous, I
know, but it need not be significant of anything quite so terrible as
ill-humour. And yet it always happens so; if I do not write I am sure
to be cross in your opinion. You set me down directly as 'hurt,' which
means _irritable_; or 'offended,' which means _sulky_; your ideal of
me having, in fact, 'its finger in its eye' all day long.
I, on the contrary, humbled as I was by your hard criticism of my soft
rhymes about Flush, waited for Arabel to carry a message for me,
begging to know whether you would care at all to see my 'Cry of the
Children' before I sent it to you. But Arabel went without telling
me that she was going: twice she went to St. John's Wood and made no
sign; and now I find myself thrown on my own resources. Will you see
the 'Cry of the Human' or not? It will not please you, probably.
It wants melody. The versification is eccentric to the ear, and the
subject (the factory miseries) is scarcely an agreeable one to the
fancy. Perhaps altogether you had better not see it, because I know
you think me to be deteriorating, and I don't want you to have further
hypothetical evidence of so false an opinion. Humbled as I am, I say
'so false an opinion.' Frankly, if not humbly, I believe myself to
have gained power since the time of the publication of the 'Seraphim,'
and lost nothing except happiness. Frankly, if not humbly!
With regard to the 'House of Clouds' I disagree both with you and
Miss Mitford, thinking it, comparatively with my other poems, neither
so bad nor so good as you two account it. It has certainly been
singled out for great praise both at home and abroad, and only
the other day Mr. Horne wrote to me to reproach me for not having
mentioned it to him, because he came upon it accidentally and
considered it 'one of my best productions.' Mr. Kenyon holds the same
opinion. As for Flush's verses, they are what I call cobweb verses,
thin and light enough; and Arabel was mistaken in telling you that
Miss Mitford gave the prize to them. Her words were, 'They are as
tender and true as anything you ever wrote, but nothing is equal to
the "House of Clouds."' Those were her words, or to that effect, and I
refer to them to you, not for the sake of Flush's verses, which really
do not appear even to myself, their writer, worth a defence, but for
the sake of _your_ judgment of _her_ accuracy in judging.
Lately I have received two letters from the profoundest woman thinker
in England, Miss Martineau--letters which touched me deeply while they
gave me pleasure I did not expect.
My poor Flush has fallen into tribulation. Think of Catiline, the
great savage Cuba bloodhound belonging to this house, attempting last
night to worry him just as the first Catiline did Cicero. Flush was
rescued, but not before he had been wounded severely: and this morning
he is on three legs and in great depression of spirits. My poor, poor
Flushie! He lies on my sofa and looks up to me with most pathetic
Where is Annie? If I send my love to her, will it ever be found again?
May God bless you both!
Dearest Mr. Boyd's affectionate and grateful
[Footnote 81: 'To Flush, my dog' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 19).]
[Footnote 82: Published in _Blackwood's Magazine_ for August 1843, and
called forth by Mr. Horne's report as assistant commissioner on the
employment of children in mines and manufactories.]
[Footnote 83: Evidently a slip of the pen for 'Children.']
[Footnote 84: _Poetical Works_, iii. 186. Mr. Boyd's opinion of it may
be learnt from Miss Barrett's letter to Horne, dated August 31, 1843
(_Letters to R.H. Horne_, i. 84): 'Mr. Boyd told me that he had read
my papers on the Greek Fathers with the more satisfaction because he
had inferred from my "House of Clouds" that illness had _impaired my
_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, September 19, 1843.
My own dear Friend,--I should have written instantly to explain myself
out of appearances which did me injustice, only I have been in such
distress as to have no courage for writing. Flush was stolen away,
and for three days I could neither sleep nor eat, nor do anything much
more rational than cry. _Confiteor tibi_, oh reverend father. And if
you call me very silly, I am so used to the reproach throughout the
week as to be hardened to the point of vanity. The worst of it is,
now, that there will be no need of more 'Houses of Clouds' to prove to
you the deterioration of my faculties. Q.E.D.
In my own defence, I really believe that my distress arose somewhat
less from the mere separation from dear little Flushie than from the
consideration of how he was breaking his heart, cast upon the cruel
world. Formerly, when he has been prevented from sleeping on my bed he
has passed the night in moaning piteously, and often he has refused to
eat from a strange hand. And then he loves me, heart to heart; there
was no exaggeration in my verses about him, if there was no poetry.
And when I heard that he cried in the street and then vanished, there
was little wonder that I, on my part, should cry in the house.
With great difficulty we hunted the dog-banditti into their caves of
the city, and bribed them into giving back their victim. Money was the
least thing to think of in such case; I would have given a thousand
pounds if I had had them in my hand. The audacity of the wretched men
was marvellous. They said that they had been 'about stealing Flush
these two years,' and warned us plainly to take care of him for the
The joy of the meeting between Flush and me would be a good subject
for a Greek ode--I recommend it to you. It might take rank next to the
epical parting of Hector and Andromache. He dashed up the stairs into
my room and into my arms, where I hugged him and kissed him, black as
he was--black as if imbued in a distillation of St. Giles's. Ah, I
can break jests about it _now_, you see. Well, to go back to the
explanations I promised to give you, I must tell you that Arabel
_perfectly forgot_ to say a word to me about 'Blackwood' and your wish
that I should send the magazine. It was only after I heard that you
had procured it yourself, and after I mentioned this to her, that she
remembered her omission all at once. Therefore I am quite vexed and
disappointed, I beg you to believe--_I_, who have pleasure in giving
you any printed verses of mine that you care to have. Never mind! I
may print another volume before long, and lay it at your feet. In
the meantime, you _endure_ my 'Cry of the Children' better than I had
anticipated--just because I never anticipated your being able to read
it to the end, and was over-delicate of placing it in your hands
on that very account. My dearest Mr. Boyd, you are right in your
complaint against the rhythm. The first stanza came into my head in a
hurricane, and I was obliged to make the other stanzas like it--_that_
is the whole mystery of the iniquity. If you look Mr. Lucas from head
to foot, you will never find such a rhythm on his person. The whole
crime of the versification belongs to _me_. So blame _me_, and by no
means another poet, and I will humbly confess that I deserve to be
blamed in some _measure_. There is a roughness, my own ear being
witness, and I give up the body of my criminal to the rod of your
castigation, kissing the last as if it were Flush.
A report runs in London that Mr. Boyd says of Elizabeth Barrett: 'She
is a person of the most perverted judgment in England.' Now, if this
be true, I shall not mend my evil position in your opinion, my very
dear friend, by confessing that I differ with you, the more the longer
I live, on the ground of what you call 'jumping lines.' I am speaking
not of particular cases, but of the principle, the general principle,
of these cases, and the tenacity of my judgment does not arise from
the teaching of 'Mr. Lucas,' but from the deeper study of the old
master-poets--English poets--those of the Elizabeth and James ages,
before the corruption of French rhythms stole in with Waller and
Denham, and was acclimated into a national inodorousness by Dryden
and Pope. We differ so much upon this subject that we must proceed
by agreeing to differ, and end, perhaps, by finding it agreeable to
differ; there can be no possible use in an argument. Only you must be
upright in justice, and find Wordsworth innocent of misleading me. So
far from having read him more within these three years, I have read
him _less_, and have taken no new review, I do assure you, of his
position and character as a poet, and these facts are testified unto
by the other fact that my poetry, neither in its best features nor its
worst, is adjusted after the fashion of his school.
But I am writing too much; you will have no patience with me. 'The
Excursion' is accused of being lengthy, and so you will tell me that I
convict myself of plagiarism, _currente calamo_.
I have just finished a poem of some eight hundred lines, called
'The Vision of Poets,' philosophical, allegorical--anything but
popular. It is in stanzas, every one an octosyllabic triplet, which
you will think odd, and I have not _sanguinity_ enough to defend.
May God bless you, my dearest Mr. Boyd! Yes, I heard--I was glad to
hear--of your having resumed that which used to be so great a pleasure
to you--Miss Marcus's society. I remain,
Affectionately and gratefully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
My love to dear Annie.
[Footnote 85: _Poetical Works_, i. 223.]
_To Mr. Westwood_
You are probably right in respect to Tennyson, for whom, with all
my admiration of him, I would willingly secure more exaltation and a
broader clasping of truth. Still, it is not possible to have so
much beauty without a certain portion of truth, the position of the
Utilitarians being true in the inverse. But I think as I did of 'uses'
and 'responsibilities,' and do hold that the poet is a preacher and
must look to his doctrine.
Perhaps Mr. Tennyson will grow more solemn, like the sun, as his day
goes on. In the meantime we have the noble 'Two Voices,' and, among
other grand intimations of a teaching power, certain stanzas to J.K.
(I think the initials are) on the death of his brother, which very
deeply affected me.
Take away the last stanzas, which should be applied more definitely
to the _body_, or cut away altogether as a lie against eternal verity,
and the poem stands as one of the finest of monodies. The nature of
human grief never surely was more tenderly intimated or touched--it
brought tears to my eyes. Do read it. He is not a Christian poet, up
to this time, but let us listen and hear his next songs. He is one of
God's singers, whether he knows it or does not know it.
I am thinking, lifting up my pen, what I can write to you which
is likely to be interesting to you. After all I come to chaos and
silence, and even old night--it is growing so dark. I live in London,
to be sure, and except for the glory of it I might live in a desert,
so profound is my solitude and so complete my isolation from things
and persons without. I lie all day, and day after day, on the sofa,
and my windows do not even look into the street. To abuse myself with
a vain deceit of rural life I have had ivy planted in a box, and it
has flourished and spread over one window, and strikes against the
glass with a little stroke from the thicker leaves when the wind blows
at all briskly. _Then_ I think of forests and groves; it is my triumph
when the leaves strike the window pane, and this is not a sound like
a lament. Books and thoughts and dreams (almost too consciously
_dreamed_, however, for me--the illusion of them has almost passed)
and domestic tenderness can and ought to leave nobody lamenting.
Also God's wisdom, deeply steeped in His love, _is_ as far as we can
stretch out our hands.
[Footnote 86: The lines 'To J.S.,' which begin:
'The wind that beats the mountain blows
More softly round the open wold.'
_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: December 26, 1843.
Dear Mr. Westwood,--You think me, perhaps, and not without apparent
reason, ungrateful and insensible to your letter, but indeed I am
neither one nor the other, and I am writing now to try and prove it to
you. I was much touched by some tones of kindness in the letter, and
it was welcome altogether, and I did not need the 'owl' which came
after to waken me, because I was wide awake enough from the first
moment; and now I see that you have been telling your beads, while I
seemed to be telling nothing, in that dread silence of mine. May all
true saints of poetry be propitious to the wearer of the 'Rosary.'
In answer to a question which you put to me long ago on the subject
of books of theology, I will confess to you that, although I have read
rather widely the divinity of the Greek Fathers, Gregory, Chrysostom,
and so forth, and have of course informed myself in the works
generally of our old English divines, Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and so
forth, I am not by any means a frequent reader of books of theology as
such, and as the men of our times have made them. I have looked into
the 'Tracts' from curiosity and to hear what the world was talking
of, and I was disappointed _even_ in the degree of intellectual power
displayed in them. From motives of a desire of theological instruction
I very seldom read any book except God's own. The minds of persons are
differently constituted; and it is no praise to mine to admit that
I am apt to receive less of what is called edification from human
discourses on divine subjects, than disturbance and hindrance. I read
the Scriptures every day, and in as simple a spirit as I can; thinking
as little as possible of the controversies engendered in that great
sunshine, and as much as possible of the heat and glory belonging to
it. It is a sure fact in my eyes that we do not require so much _more
knowledge_, as a stronger apprehension, by the faith and affections,
of what we already know.
You will be sorry to hear that Mr. Tennyson is not well, although
his friends talk of nervousness, and do not fear much ultimate
It is such a lovely _May_ day, that I am afraid of breaking the spell
by writing down Christmas wishes.
Very faithfully yours,
[Footnote 87: About the same date she writes to Home (_Letters to R.H.
Horne_, i. 86): 'I am very glad to hear that nothing really very bad
is the matter with Tennyson. If anything were to happen to Tennyson,
the world should go into mourning.']
_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: December 31, 1843.
If you do find the paper I was invited to write upon Wordsworth,
you will see to which class of your admiring or abhorring friends
I belong. Perhaps you will cry out quickly, 'To the blind admirers,
certes.' And I have a high admiration of Wordsworth. His spirit has
worked a good work, and has freed into the capacity of work other
noble spirits. He took the initiative in a great poetic movement, and
is not only to be praised for what he has done, but for what he
has helped his age to do. For the rest, Byron has more passion and
intensity, Shelley more fancy and music, Coleridge could see further